Select Committee on BBC Charter Review Minutes of Evidence

Further letter from the Northwest Regional Development Agency ("NWDA")


  In what is a crucial period for the BBC's proposed relocation to the Manchester city region, I write to assure you of the Northwest Regional Development Agency's (NWDA) full support for the move. I can confirm our sister RDAs, Yorkshire Forward and ONE North East, have also given the move their full backing.

  The NWDA is working very closely with the BBC Director General and his Project Director to develop a comprehensive framework for the evaluation of options in advance of the critical BBC Governors' meeting on 20 October. This is a significant milestone and we look forward to a clear and unambiguous outcome. The NWDA will work with BBC staff to ensure a focussed and effective evaluation process for each of the proposed sites. It is crucial that we make swift progress in securing the most imaginative, deliverable, cost effective and beneficial proposal with a definitive timetable for implementation.

  The media sector in Manchester and the Northwest has the potential to be world class. As well as being home to ITV Granada, there is a range of key independent media operators, excellent production facilities and creative talent that the BBC will benefit from. The Northwest is the largest centre of out-of-London production in the country, with a vibrant mix of programming in all production categories. I firmly believe that the vitality and innovation of the Northwest's media and creative industries will be enormously boosted by the presence of the BBC and its important role in commissioning programmes and other services.

  The development of a strengthened BBC presence in the Manchester city region is also hugely important to our economy and employment opportunities. Through our current intensive work with the BBC and other local partners, we believe that the economic benefits resulting from the BBC relocation will be maximised through the complementary development of a "media enterprise zone". This approach would enable the physical accommodation of the BBC together with a range of shared or complementary services. It is expected to create an additional 4,400 jobs in total and add a further £1.5 billion GVA to the regional economy over 10 years, providing a catalyst for further growth of the media sector. This clearly resonates with your own goal of maximising the contribution that the creative industries can make to the economy.

  The benefits do not end with the Manchester city region. There will also be benefits throughout the North via the BBC's proposed increase in external commissioning of services. This is critical to the further cultural development of the whole of the North of England as well as the successful implementation of the Northern Way. In total, the BBC Manchester move involves £225 million worth of production spend and a further £50 million commissioning spend annually. This offers real added value in terms of stimulating sector development.

  We have an unprecedented opportunity to deliver a genuine step change in economic performance within the North. We must not let this opportunity falter.

  It is for these reasons that the NWDA will continue to press for a swift decision on the BBC's relocation. The Agency and its public sector partners have committed, in principle, to support this venture with an investment of around £50 million. I trust that I can rely on your support for this crucial relocation in the weeks and months to come.

13 October 2005

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